Pop-Up Post: Burning for You

Thich Quang Duc in 1963 Saigon (Getty Images)

Thich Quang Duc in 1963 Saigon (Getty Images)

On June 11, 1963—in the streets of war-torn Saigon—Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc protested the persecution of Buddhists by the government of South Korea in the most unthinkable way: he sat down in a busy intersection, facing west with his palms up, and set himself on fire.

Duc self-immolated and burned himself alive—and his image has been burned into our collective memory ever since. Take a look at this enhanced and colored version.

Duc in living color (Getty Images/mygrapefruit)

Duc in living color (Getty Images/mygrapefruit)

Creepy, isn’t it?

Well, it turns out that self-immolation was on the menu in our nation’s capital yesterday afternoon, too. An as-yet-unidentified man appeared on the National Mall at 4:30 Friday afternoon—between the Air and Space Museum and the National Mall—muttered something unintelligible, doused himself in gasoline and promptly set himself aflame, much to the shock of passersby like Tommy Hess.

“I was milling around, because everything is closed due to the shutdown,” Hess explained. “I never expected to see anything like that. It’s crazy.”

Equally crazy is what eyewitness Katy Scheflen claimed to see moments before the man did his tragically accurate impression of the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch—flame on!

Smoke on the National Mall (Hand Out)

Smoke on the National Mall (Hand Out)

According to Scheflen—a Justice Department civil rights attorney currently furloughed by this ridiculous government shutdown—she stopped because she saw “a guy with a tripod set up” and thought a scene or protest was being filmed—the camera appeared to be trained on the man with the gas can.

“And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames,” Scheflen later told reporters. “Whoosh! We didn’t know what was going on.”

Some joggers rushed over to beat out the flames and shortly after authorities arrived on the scene, a helicopter was dispatched to transport the burned man to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He thanked the joggers just before takeoff, but with burns over 80% of his body, there was nothing to be done. The unidentified man died of his injuries earlier today.

The worst kind of barbecue on the lawn (Terry Hayes)

The worst kind of barbecue on the lawn (Terry Hayes)

No one knows what led this poor bastard to self-immolate in Washington yesterday, but many suspect the government shutdown may be to blame. People are fed up with our contentious, self-serving leaders, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t at least part of his motivation. Discovering his reasons now is impossible, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more violent protests in the near future… especially if our elected officials can’t pull it together and get our nation back on track soon. It just sucks that regular people have to die to make any sort of impression on Washington… if any real impression was made, that is.

In many ways, sacrificing your life to protest injustice, further a worthy cause or affect positive change can be quite noble. It would take a lot of forethought, planning and—most of all—convincing yourself to go through with it, but once the decision had been made, the resolve from that point forward would likely be unbreakable.

But after all that thought, the best you can come up with is burning yourself alive? I’m sorry, but there is just as much honor in sacrificing your life in a less painful way. I know that I wouldn’t think any less of you… at least not any less than I do already

Posted on October 5, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

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